The Aussie small cap intent on taking down the portfolio-hopping ex-prime minister for blocking its gas exploration licence last year has shared its latest legal moves with the ASX.

‘You ignored us, you cut us off from the proper process and we’re pretty sure you didn’t even bother looking at the application anyway’ – this is the real takeaway from the latest legal lodging supplied to the Federal Court by BPH Energy’s affiliate Asset Energy.

The update from BPH Energy (ASX: BPH) comes just as reports emerge that the then government of former PM Scott Morrison was warned it could be in all sorts of legal jeopardy – like facing a potential damages payout exactly like the one it’s facing – if it blocked the PEP-11 gas exploration permit of BPH affiliate Asset Energy.

In newly available court documents, a 2019 legal precedent is cited involving a company called Pathfinder Energy.

In that case the Commonwealth denied an extension application relating to Pathfinder Energy’s exploration permits, and the Morrison government was explicitly told that all took “nearly one year to settle and at significant cost”.

Now BPH’s Asset Energy says in making the decision to block the PEP-11 gas exploration licence, the former PM ‘breached the requirements of procedural fairness’.

Not only did Morrison ‘predetermine’ that application wouldn’t see the light of day but BPH says that the entire ‘purported decision was infected by actual bias’.

Asset Energy – a wholly-owned subsidiary of BPH investee Advent Energy, has made an application for Judicial Review regarding Morrison’s alleged improper use of extraordinary ministerial powers to block Asset’s potentially lucrative PEP-11 gas exploration licence of the offshore fields between Newcastle and Sydney.

Earlier this month the former High Court justice Bill Gummow questioned Morrison’s call to take on the bonus ministerial portfolios, calling  them “clandestine appointments” (which doesn’t sound great) and saying they were invalid because of the secrecy involved.

The PM’s rejection of the 4500km permit off the coast of northern NSW was said to roll right over then-Resources Minister Keith Pitt, who, apparently recognising the intense pressures of the east coast gas market, was supposedly in favour of the extension.

Then came the media revelations of Mr Morrison’s secret cross-ministerial power plays.

Then in June, Asset Energy – the wholly-owned subsidiary of Advent (remember they’re the BPH investee) – took the PM to the Federal Court alleging bias in his rather extraordinary decision not to renew the PEP-11 offshore exploration permit off the northern coast of Newcastle, claiming Morrison failed to afford procedural fairness to the application.

With the fresh revelations of Morrison’s secret ministerial powers, however, BPH and Advent are  urging the government to reconsider the rejection of the application.

Asset Energy has now lodged an amended originating application for judicial review claiming in particular:

‘There was a reasonable apprehension of bias, in the form of predetermination, on the part of the Former Prime Minister, such that there was a denial of procedural fairness.

 ‘In making the Decision, the applicant (Asset Energy) was denied procedural fairness because the Former Prime Minister, before determining the merits of the Application, failed to take into account the submissions made by Asset.

 ‘Asset was also denied procedural fairness AND it’s all a moot point anyway because the decision’ is void and of no effect because the Former Prime Minister was not validly appointed as the responsible Commonwealth Minister of the Joint Authority to administer the Department.’

And as if enough was not already at stake, in other court documents, BPH executive director David Breeze – also an Asset Energy director – says the global energy major ConocoPhillips had been in joint venture discussions as late as October 2021 to develop opportunities at PEP-11.


This article was developed in collaboration with BPH Energy, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.

This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.